Virginia 2008 Bear Harvest Numbers

VA Dept. of Game & Inland Fisheries, Bear Hunting Magazine

Wildlife biologists with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries have compiled preliminary figures for the 2008-09 bear season.

A record number of 2,204 bears were harvested during the bear season. The figure represents the combined kill from archery, muzzleloader and firearms. This record harvest was 35% higher than the previous record of 1,633 bears set in the 2006-07 bear seasons. The harvest in 2007-08 was 1,517 bears. West Virginia also had a record bear harvest this year.

Virginia's statewide bear harvest has been growing at an average annual rate of 9.5%, consistent with the Commonwealth's healthy and growing bear population.

Bears were harvested in 64 counties. Successful bear hunters came from 17 other states and one other country.

Spotty acorn production in 2008 also helped concentrate bears around available food sources, possibly making them more vulnerable to hunters.

The Virginia Black Bear Management Plan, a plan representing the bear-related interests and public values of all Virginians, includes objectives for desirable population levels of black bears across Virginia. Based on these objectives, the Virginia bear population has exceeded desired population levels in certain areas of the state including many of the counties that are in the top ten list of highest bear harvest. In order to meet the population objectives, certain areas will need future increases in bear harvest.

The muzzleloader season accounted for 95 bears or approximately 4% of the harvest. This was a decrease from the previous 5-year average of 7% of the harvest.

With a harvest of 517 bears during 2008-09, archery hunters accounted for 23% of the total harvest. This is similar to the previous 5-year average of 25%.

The 2008-09 firearms season accounted for 72% (1,592 bears) of the total harvest which is an increase over the previous 5-year average of 65% of the harvest. Similar to the 5-year average where hound hunters account for 35% of the total harvest and 50% of the total firearms kill, hound hunters harvested 34% of the total kill and 47% of firearms kill during 2008-09.

The 2008-09 female bear harvest was over 40% of the total harvest, up from the 5-year average of 37%. The female proportion of the harvest increased for all segments of the bear season. Muzzleloaders had a female harvest of 46% (5-year average, 42%) and archers had a female harvest of 38% (5-year average, 37%). General firearms hunters who did not use hounds harvested over 45% females (5-year average, 39%), while hound hunters harvested only 34% females (5-year average, 32%).

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